Rachel Lee


What’s Critical to Design?

An interactive library of census stories visualizing the most critical issues facing design today.


We were immedietely drawn to this subset of data because the language and worlds these stories depicted moved us in a way that numbers could not. Also, we love words.


We were deeply inspired by our childhood experiences playing the 'Wikipedia game'. By clicking on links to portal yourself from one topic to another, we aimed to create an engaging experience that allows users to choose their own narrative journey.

Rachel Lee © 2021

AIGA Design Census


Data Visualization
HTML / CSS / js
Interaction Design


5 weeks
(Spring 2020)


Alice Fang
Jaclyn Saik


Concept Development
Interaction Design
Web Development

An interactive library of census stories visualizing the most critical issues facing design today.

Every few years, AIGA releases a census report ↗ that highlights the state of design and those involved in the industry, using metrics such as demographics, job satisfaction, and future outlook of the industry.

My team decided to focus on the only subset of the census with a free response option, “What are the most critical issues facing design?” 1 to tell the personal stories of designers through language and sentiment.

Exploratory Site

Browse Quotes

Users are able to preview quotes through the left sidebar to get an overview of key thoughts within the dataset at a glance.

Highlight Surf

Clicking on highlighted texts directs users down the list of quotes for the given category, all of which are connected thematically. The highlights reveal the quote's categorization and placement within the curated selection. Inverted highlighted text highlights tangential categories the quote also touches upon, and clicking on the highlight allows users to navigate to the corresponding category.

External Links

Embedded witin select quotes are external links to relevant articles from AIGA Eye on Design ↗ to further discourse about a theme pertinent to the current state of design.

Spot Words

Hovering over a bolded spot word gives context into key themes identified across all six of our libraries, providing opportunities for comparison between issues that the design industry is not heavily considering and paying close attention to.

The Book

We printed and bound a 120 page book. With identical content as the site, rather than linking to external content, we kept all ‘portals’ within the book via sticky notes. Each sticky contains a reference to a related quote in a different category.

Parsing Data

Using Python and NLTK to parse through census data, we identified the 150 bi-grams and tri-grams that appear most frequently in the dataset. We sorted the words and phrases into 6 core categories: quality, representation, power, change, community and education.

User Flow and Prototypes

We went through numerous various site and book iterations, thinking about how quotes should be linked,how content should be stylized, and how we could provide an introspective experience for users to consider their own position in the matter.2

Visual Identity

Our visual system pays homage to our language based data visualization by placing strong emphasis on typography and color. Our visual identity features modern elements inspired by the practice of reading and highlighting printed text.

Color and visual system.

Final Thoughts

This project marked a lot of major milestones for me: my first data visualization project, my most ambitious web project to date, my first time working with these two amazing collaborators. Through this process, we were able to challenge ourselves to look into the affordances of different mediums, be ambitious with our craft, learn plenty about parsing data and create compelling narratives to tell untold stories.

In the future, I would like to explore ways in which the user’s personal narratives can be weaved into our database, be it through allowing users to bookmark selections, annotate, or replying to tangents, to transform our dataset into something continuous and in flux.